Saving Crepe Myrtle Seeds: How To Harvest Crepe Myrtle Seeds

Saving Crepe Myrtle Seeds: How To Harvest Crepe Myrtle Seeds

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By: Teo Spengler

Crepe myrtle trees (Lagerstroemia indica) makes many homeowners’ list of favorites in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 through 10. They offer showy flowers in summer, vivid fall color, and textural bark in winter along with attractive seed heads. Collecting crepe myrtle seeds is one way to grow new plants. We’ll provide lots of tips for crepe myrtle seed harvesting.

Saving Crepe Myrtle Seeds

The attractive seed heads that weigh down your crepe myrtle branches in winter contain seeds that wild birds love to eat. But taking a few to increase your crepe myrtle seed collection will still leave them plenty. When should you start crepe myrtle seed harvesting? You’ll want to start saving crepe myrtle seeds when the seed pods ripen.

Crepe myrtle trees flower in late summer and produce green berries. As fall approaches, the berries develop into seed heads. Each seed head holds tiny brown seeds. Over time, the seed pods turn brown and dry. That’s the time to start your crepe myrtle seed collection.

How to Harvest Crepe Myrtle Seeds

The seeds in the seed pods are easy to collect. You should harvest the seeds when the pods are brown and dry but before they drop to the soil. It’s not difficult. Keep a large bowl beneath the branch where the seed pods are located. When you want to start saving crepe myrtle seeds, shake the dry pods gently to release the seeds.

You can also start your crepe myrtle seed collection by wrapping fine netting around the pods. The netting can catch the seeds if the pods open at a moment you aren’t around.

Another way to start collecting crepe myrtle seeds is to bring the pods inside. You can snip off some attractive crepe myrtle branches that have seed pods on them. Make those branches into a bouquet. Place them in a vase with water on a plate or tray. Seeds will land on the tray when they fall from the drying pods.

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Trees and Shrubs forum→Sharing photos of my crepe myrtle seedlings

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Well! They germinated in early March and I planted them in the ground a couple months later. I've had a number of exciting seedlings start to bloom and I'm seeing lots of interesting colors.

As you know, Ebony Flame is one of the new black leafed crepe myrtles. My seedlings are coming up with about 10% black leaves. The rest have green leaves, and half of them have a green stem and the other half have a red stem.

I'm particularly excited about this one:

As you can see, it has watermelon colored blooms.

In the green leaf/red stem variety, I have this promising looking one:

The blooms are variegated with cherry red and white. A lovely bloom!

I have about 30 seedlings out there that look promising and if there is interest, I'll continue posting photos as they each bloom.

Heat zn 9, Sunset
North Fl. (Zone 8b)

I love crepe myrtle, which is a challenge in my Zone. No huge trees, but my Muskogee is giving it a try - it is

12 feet high. I built a cage around it last year and filled with leaves to 6 ' high.

All told I have 8 crepe myrtles - one (Sioux) that I grew from seed last year. I have another 5 seedlings I started this year - all dwarf varieties.

And yes - post more pics. I think that is way cool in your climate you plant seeds and they bloom same year.

dave said: This year I sowed a nice collection of seeds that were open pollinated on my Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia 'Ebony Flame')

I have about 30 seedlings out there that look promising and if there is interest, I'll continue posting photos as they each bloom.

Do you also have then quite a few other mature crepe myrtles?

Personally, I just love looking at the pictures. I know this is late, but I there is interest here, too, to see more pictures!

I have quite a collection of mature crepe myrtles. If I had to count I'd say I own maybe 15 different varieties totaling perhaps a hundred trees. Now if you count little plants, seedlings and so forth, the number is much, much higher.

I'll see about some new photos soon.

Hope all is well with you and your family

We do sometimes sell the crepe myrtles locally, when the children do their plant sales. I'll often pot up 10 of them or so and sell them as mixed crepe myrtles. More frequently, though, if I have a visitor, I'll offer them to take some home and if they like the idea, I just dig up a few and put them in a box for them.

I guess I could send them through the mail but I'd want to do that when they are dormant for better success. Remind me next winter and I'll send you some if I still have some around.

Shannon, you should try growing some from seed! Just looking at Dave's babies makes me want to give it a try too!

So, my seeds come in a real nice ziplock baggy (the bags were a gift from @RickCorey, thank you!). I then add quite a bit of dry vermiculite. If you don't have that you can use fine sterile potting soil. Mix it up really nice so the seeds are evenly distributed throughout the bag. Then add just enough water to the bag to moisten the contents. I use reverse osmosis water. I wouldn't want to add chlorinated water (but I'm not sure if that's just my paranoia.)

Mark with a sharpee the variety name and today's date on the outside of the bag, and put it in the fridge.

What I do is every couple weeks, take it, open it up, dump the contents into a clean bowl, mix it up quite a bit, and let it breath for a few minutes. Then repack it into the baggy and put it back into the fridge. Once the 60 days are up, take the contents out and spread them onto a folded paper towel. Spread it as evenly as possible, then fold in half and put it into a large ziplock or sandwich bag and place under growlights. (This is a form of the "paper towel method", which I'm sure you're all familiar with.)

Keep it warm (a heating pad helps). Check it daily. Within a few days you'll start to see germination. Pick each seedling out as they germinate and pot them into cells.

Transplant into the garden as soon as you think they are ready (the earlier the better! They languish when stuck in little pots). Make sure frost is long past. KEEP THEM WARM. Crepe Myrtles absolutely hate the cold and will be stunted, sometimes permanently. If it's cold outside, keep them inside your house.

I think I waited until mid to late April to transplant them into the ground.

This is what my bed looked like in mid July of the same year:

You see they are all about 12 inches tall. About half of them bloomed in mid August and beyond.

Should I Prune Off Crepe Myrtle Seeds?

Most people find the prospect of pruning only slightly less frightening than Carrie Fisher reprising her role as Princess Leia in the latest "Star Wars." And one pruning question weighs upon them more than any other at this time of year. Should I prune off the seeds from my crepe myrtle?

The answer is yes. Or no. It all depends on two things. (1) How big is your crepe myrtle? (2) How bored are you?

Obviously, if your crepe myrtle is 30 feet tall, the chances of you renting a helicopter to safely lower you down to the top of the tree to prune are quite small. On the other hand, if your crepe myrtle was recently planted and is 10 feet tall or less, you can reach the seed pods to cut them off.

There are two logical reasons to remove them. First, on a small crepe myrtle, the heavy clusters of seed pods can weigh down the branches almost to the point that they're touching the ground. Removing the seeds takes off the weight and the branches rise up. Second, if you remove the seed pods early enough in the year -- say late July -- you'll probably get a second flush of blooms in September. That time has passed for 2014.

Some people think that if they leave on the seed pods, the crepe myrtle will not bloom next year. FALSE. It will bloom just fine.

So assuming your crepe myrtle is big enough that pruning off the seeds would be a royal pain, how bored do you plan on being this weekend? The last time I looked, college football is set to start its new season this Saturday. I plan on drinking beer and watching football. How about you?

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